Dave Pelzer's autobiographical trilogy (A Child called It; The Lost Boy; and A Man Named Dave) charted the reconstruction of a battered soul. Helping Yourself turns the lessons that Pelzer has learned into guidance for people confronting the disparate problems of life. Don't despair, Pelzer isn't relinquishing his identity to become a self-help guru. Indeed, few self improvement books feel this personal.
Help Yourself: Finding Hope, Courage, and Happinessby Dave Pelzer
As a child, Dave Pelzer survived and overcame the life-threatening circumstances chronicled in his bestselling trilogy. He is now happily married, a father himself, and has been selected as one of the Outstanding Young Persons of the World. How was it possible for him to overcome such insurmountable odds? How can others who face overwhelming odds become all they wish to be? In Help Yourself, Dave Pelzer answers these questions and explains how anyone can move beyond a painful history, harmful negative thoughts, and innumerable setbacks by remembering to take control and be accountable for their lives. Filled with episodes from his own life and examples of others who have dealt with their own struggles, Help Yourself is a rousing call to readers who are tired of psychological platitudes and want real answers to real problems...from a man who willed himself to overcome the worst life had to offer and became the best he could be.
About the Author:
Dave Pelzer is the New York Times bestselling author of A Child Called "It," The Lost Boy, and A Man Named Dave. He travels throughout the nation offering keynotes on overcoming obstacles. He has appeared on Montel and Leeza.
A survivor to the utmost degree, Dave Pelzer endured a childhood of harsh physical and psychological torture by his alcoholic mother. Once rescued, it was assumed because of his mother’s abuse, he would end up either dead or in jail, with no hope for a happy life. Pelzer has proven these predictions wrong. In the wake of his stunningly written and bestselling trilogy, which chronicles his life from tormented child to inspirational leader, Pelzer give us Help Yourself. Despite painful histories and hardships, Pelzer knowingly shows how to take control and become accountable for one’s actions and life, and in turn, live a rewarding life.
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Read an Excerpt
The Need to Free
I was too young to know any better. It began between my mother and me around the age of four. By that time, mainly when my father was at work, it was normal for me to walk up to Mother, stand exactly three feet in front of her with my head bent towards the floor, and wait for her to grant me permission to speak, so I could then ask her permission to use the bathroom. I found it strange that my two brothers were permitted to go to the bathroom and do other things that for some reason I was not allowed to do.
I thought the way Mother treated me was completely normal, until one Sunday afternoon, when I was four years old, while father was away, Mother burst into the bedroom, forcing my brothers to scurry for cover, while she proceeded to beat me. By Mother's reddened eyes and foul breath, I knew she was drunk. But because of her intoxicated state, while continuing to hit me Mother slipped, grabbed my left arm to stabilize herself, and fell backward, pulling my arm out of its socket.
When I saw Mother's eyes blink, I knew she, too, had heard and felt the jerk of my arm separating from my shoulder. Yet Mother simply stood up, wiped her hands, shot me a look, then turned and walked away. The next day, the moment Father arrived home from his twenty-four-hour shift at work, Mother suddenly burst into tears, explaining how I had mysteriously fallen from the top bunk. My father, a fireman with medical training, didn't even bat an eye. Neither my brothers nor I ever thought of speaking up.
Hours later, when I received medical attention for the first time since the incident, I knew by the look in the doctor's eyes never to disclose what had really happened. Especially since he rattled on about how kind and sweet my mother was to him and his staff. I remember sitting on a metal swivel chair gazing up at the man in the white jacket, thinking that if everyone likes my mom so much and no one seems concerned about the truth, then I must be the problem.
I returned home with my arm in a green sling and a handful of tongue depressors, ready to show off to Father. But I somehow became invisible to him as Mother retold her story again and again. After the drama had reached its peak, I found myself completely alone with Mother. While continuing to cradle me in her arms, she swiveled her head to make sure we were alone. Bending down to look at me, she tightened her grip around me, and the color of her face seemed to darken. Without the need for words the message was clear: Keep your mouth shut. You tell anyone and next time it will be worse. This will be our little secret.
It was then, as a four-year-old child raised in the 1960s, that I knew I was the problem. I knew I deserved whatever treatment Mother gave me. It was at this age that I learned to push down my feelings of fear and self-worth. It was then that I knew I was alone. Above all, I knew exactly what had happened between Mother and me, but I did not, I could not, do anything to change it.
The Dilemma of Unresolved Issues
Every one of us has a past. All of us have had our share of problems. No one has a perfect life. Loved ones pass away. Parents divorce. Others who don't strive as hard and don't deserve the prized promotion receive it. We've all suffered broken hearts and some, like myself, may have had an unfortunate childhood.
The single most critical element I have found that prevents individuals from achieving their greatness is unresolved issues. It doesn't matter who you areCEO, single parent, teen, a celebrity, or any other everyday folkyou can never reach your full potential unless you deal with and rid yourself of whatever may be troubling you.
A great number of people who don't deal with problematic situations in their lives develop a tendency to bury their emotions. They may truly believe they've not only addressed the problem but totally dealt with it as wella short-term solution that may be the answer for some, but in reality rarely solves anything. What they' re really doing is developing a bad habit. What's worse is they're still not dealing with the heart of the complication and over time the "quick fix" solution can manifest trouble of its own.
If you find yourself automatically reacting, over the simplest thing, in a frustrated, angry, defensive, distant manner, or find yourself trying to escape life by indulging more in your vices than you normally do, it's most likely due to an event linked to a past situation. After years or even weeks of becoming conditioned by the predicament, you may be so used to it that you may not even be aware of why you are reacting a particular way. Your mind has become so conditioned, it unconsciously responds as it was taught.
While serving on active duty flying for the air force, I became heavily involved working as a volunteer throughout the state of California with anything having to do with "youth at risk" and those who worked with them. When I received an offer to work part-time at a local juvenile hall, I instantly jumped at the opportunity. Because I was a foster child and had been placed in juvenile hall, I knew what it like for some teens. Yet as many books as I have read and courses I have taken in psychology and human development, I've learned more from the teenagers in juvenile hall than anywhere else.
One young woman, Nancy, had a mouth that would embarrass the most seasoned sailor and at times would spontaneously erupt and assault any boy who might have looked at her the wrong way. One particular time when she exploded, out of fear of her harming herself or others around her, it took three of us adults to restrain this wiry teenager until she finally calmed down. It was because of Nancy's constant negative behavior that she landed in the juvenile detention center. At first, as I'm sure a lot of scared teens do in her condition, Nancy felt she had to act a certain way, even more so because of her placement, in order to protect herself and her pride. After a few weeks, Nancy's attitude and behavior worsened to the point that she was facing the possibility of being placed in a psychiatric center.
I, and other staff members with far more experience and education than me, knew Nancy was not as bad as she appeared to be. Without sounding too judgmental, and only after she got to know me, I sincerely asked Nancy, "Why do you act that way?"
"You know why." She shrugged.
Getting to the point I stated, "No, I don't. Why are you acting the way you do?"
Nancy's response was so pure it almost knocked me over: "It's all I know."
I was lucky. After other counselors had worked with Nancy for months, she opened up to me, telling me that as a young girl she had constantly been tormented by her brothers and always felt she had to defend herself. As we continued to casually talk back and forth, I chided Nancy by saying, "I don't think anyone's going to even think of messing with you now." I emphasized the last word, helping Nancy realize she had yet to break her habit that she had acquired from years ago. "Besides," I added, "if you act a certain way, how will others not only judge you, but treat you?"
The staff continued to work with Nancy, helping her to recognize her habitual behavior and replace negative responses with more positive ones. So, when Nancy felt threatened, instead of beating up the boys, she would place her hands on her hips and give them a cold, long stare. Some of the male teens became frightened, unsure what Nancy might do to them; but she was simply controlling herself by counting to ten. Instead of spewing obscenities, Nancy would use her quick wit to fire off a thought-provoking anecdote.
As basic as it sounds, Nancy simply did not wish to be hurt. She felt this way because of a past issue that had taken root. She had acted tough for so long that over time she had forgotten why she was acting that particular way. In the end, once Nancy became aware, she and she alone had to make the change.
When I think about Nancy's initial statement, "It's all I know," it reminds me of something Oprah Winfrey once said on her show when she consoled a young lady with low self-esteem who found herself in trouble as well: "Now that you know better, do better."
A lot of folks harbor portions of their past in their hearts until it hardens and develops as a "reflex" type of response, until the behavior and/or attitude becomes normal for them.
All of us tend to suppress problems rather than deal with them as soon as they unexpectedly "pop up." And it doesn't have to be from some traumatic experience either. Teens and adults, especially those with low esteem, who crave independence and have the tremendous desire to belong, will do anything to fit in. Do you know anyone who's felt slightly intimidated attending college or being the "new guy" at work, and has kept his opinions to himself for fear of making a statement that might appear stupid or antagonistic? There are some of us, including myself, who have been in turbulent relationships and stayed in them and would rather just go along than to risk being abandoned or face the possibility of a confrontation.
All of us at one time or another have found ourselves in uncomfortable conditions that we did not deal with. Again, it may be because of a habit from our past. I believe if we learn to deal with the everyday problems of life, it helps us all the more when something more arduous comes along.
Let's say you're at work, counting the minutes before you can bolt from the office. You've been looking forward to the weekendto be with your family or have some quiet time by yourselfever since Monday when you first rolled out of that warm, comfortable bed. You've been swamped this entire week and because you are so dedicated to your job, you've put off your personal needs. But now, seconds before you grab your things and flee, in strolls your boss. He's a huge, overbearing blowhard with the breath of an ox. With sweat trickling down his brow, he dumps a stack of reports that require your instant attention. With a wave of his hand he apologizes, for he would have gotten them to you sooner but he was out playing a round of golf. "Either way," he demands, "you've got to take care of this."
"But I'm about to leave; I've got plans!" you plead.
"That's okay," your boss replies as he leaves your cubicle, "I don't mind. Just make sure it's all done and ready for me first thing Monday morning."
You're fuming. Your heart rate quickens, your body becomes tense. You want to give your boss a piece of your mind, a spray can of deodorant, and a case of Altoids. On the drive home all you can think about is that man. Suddenly, you're stuck in traffic. The air conditioner is on the fritz. You miss your exit. Then you run out of gas because you were thinking about work when you passed the gas station. You're the poster child for Murphy's Law: If it can get worse, it will.
While I mean no disrespect to those in management and while the preceding is simply an illustration, I've known people who have had that type of experience. But answer this: With all that frustration, what kind of weekend are you going to have? Probably not a good one. In the preceding story, unless you quit, the only way out is to complete the task as best as you can and as quickly as possible so as to spend the remainder of your time on your terms.
In reality, have you ever had a similar overbearing problem that stemmed from work, a different kind of situation at home, or a more personal matter that, not dealt with, became so overwhelming that you became consumed by the situation, to the point it affected your attitude and every aspect of your day? I have. Have your problems affected your sleep, to the point that you could not get the rest you needed because of your bad day, then got up feeling groggy, unfocused, and still consumed by that troubling issue?
The Need to Rest Your Mind
So why is it that you can't get your mind to let go? The basic answer is your brain is simply trying to find the precise solution to that particular problem. If the problem is overwhelming, your mind will not function to its full capacity because it is being drawn to the dilemma it is focused on. If you find yourself constantly losing sleep, this is a serious predicament. If the brain is not allowed to rest it can, psychologically speaking, crash.
When it comes to the importance of resting one's mind, I recall a time years ago while I was serving in the military. I had the rare opportunity to observe one of the army's elite organizations, the Rangers, during the last phase of their training. Having been a graduate of the army's paratrooper jump school, I appreciate and respect how grueling and rigorous their qualifications are. These razor-sharp commandos working in small units are hardened to accomplish their objective at all costs and against all odds. Since the last part of the Rangers' training is under constant, intense conditions of simulated combat, the trainees are required to complete their various tasks while being physically and psychologically pushed and pulled in every direction, with only one hour's sleep a day.
Imagine yourself wearing the same set of clothes for over a week, chilled to the bone, past exhaustion, muscles aching from being weighed down by your weapon, ammunition, and forty-pound backpack, and all the while you're crawling, hiking, rappelling, or rafting with not only simulated mortars exploding wherever you step and gunfire rattling off, but a mock force that wishes you harm. Yet, as physically tired as these men were, their reflexes remained razor sharp and their morale was extremely high. To answer the question how in the world these men were able to do it, a veteran instructor smiled, stating, "These men are in top physical and, more importantly, psychological condition. The brain only needs thirty to forty minutes of sound sleep a day to recharge itself. It's like resetting a circuit breaker. We bombard these men with ever-changing, life-threatening scenarios, so when they sleep, they sleep well. By the time they wake up, their brains are rested and ready to go.
"They have to adjust quickly, effectually. They cannot allow anything to get into their minds that may bog them down. This entire course is more psychological than physical. If your mind's not rested, focused, or if you tell yourself you ain't gonna make it, you're history, you're washed out of the program. The body can endure practically anythingpain, fatigue, you name itbut it's the mind that matters."
I think of my experience with the Rangers as a hardcore business-management course. Those professionals are able to work through a multitude of situations and are able to do so, in part because they allow their minds to rest. The main lesson I learned, which I use to this day, is no matter the situation anyone may be facing, the brain has to shut down or "reset" itself every day, in order to deal with the challenges of the next day.
I'm in no way saying you have to be some he-man Rambo commando in order to sort through your issues. Truth be told, I'm a wimp compared to those in uniform. I'm middle aged, too lazy, and no longer do three hundred sit-ups a day. But I know this: With all that every one of us does in a single day, with all the problems that bombard us, if we do not learn to deal with these issues and turn off "the switch," we will run ourselves into the ground.
The reason why you may not be able to get a good night's sleep is your mind is desperately searching for an answer to your problem. Look at it this way: Your brain is like a CD-ROMit is constantly spinning at extreme speeds in its function to keep the machine, your body, operating. The brain not only processes information but stores data faster and better than any computer chip mankind can devise. If you have "programmed" your brain not to address a situation, your "computer" in a way will store your problems in its "To be solved at a later date" file; but over time when that file becomes full, the CD-ROM becomes task saturated, continuing to spin as it searches for a solution to its function. So what can eventually happen? The computer crashes.
This is why I cannot stress enough the value of a good night's sleep. With a recharged battery you are all the better when it comes to tackling whatever comes your way. When it comes to dealing with issues, think of it as removing data from your computer disk that you need to do on a daily basis, so your file does not become too full, forcing your computer to crash.
You need to reprogram how you deal with troubling issues, just as Nancy did when she became upset, by replacing a bad program with a more positive one. Imagine being the president of the United States. Every single day the president is bombarded by countless situations, up to life-threatening crises, that can have repercussions around the world. How does the president do it? The president does not have superhero powers with Einsteinian intelligence, but is a human being just like you and me. And like any good manager, the president deals with any situation by confronting it. After collecting all the information, the president considers all the options and consequences of each scenario, makes a decision, and moves on to the next problem. Not to downplay the magnitude of the office of the president, but it is basically what most of us do on a daily basisfrom single parents balancing their budget, those who apply themselves every day at work, to students trying to remain focused when studying for final exams.
So, when a situation arises, address your problem, consider your options, then accept the repercussions of your decision. If you believe in spiritual guidance, meditate or pray about it, then make your decision and let the situation go. After you've made your decision it is vital that you relax, just as the president plays a round of golf in the middle of a crisis so that his mind can unwind and can focus on the next series of situations. And you, just like the president, will find that once a problem is solved another one quickly replaces it. But over time as you learn to continually deal with problems, however frustrating or disgusting they may be, you'll discover that not only will your esteem grow because now you're in charge of your lifeand not some ghost from your past keeping you downbut more important, psychologically you will be all the healthier.
Please understand: you will never be able to solve all your problems to your liking. And at times you will feel overwhelmed and frustrated. That's life. Remember that story about the pompous boss with the bad breath? You know you can't tell him off, and you will most likely have to give up another weekend to ensure the job is done. Yet, inside of you this enormous pressure is building up like a volcano. What can you do? Two words: controlled eruptions.
We now realize how damaging it is to keep everything bottled up, so we have to relieve that pressure. Years ago my son, Stephen, was playing Little League baseball. As much as he tried, he simply was not playing one of his best games. Inning after inning I could tell by his body language that the strain was building up inside of him. On the drive home Stephen was like a statue; he refused to talk and barely moved. As a parent I believe in being a positive role model and instilling manners. However, Stephen and I have always had an agreement that when a situation dictated I would, for just a few minutes, not grade him as my son but as his friend. This was one of those times. I told Stephen that for the next five minutes he could kick, yell, swear, or basically do whatever he had to, to get the tension out of his system. After a few seconds of hesitation, Stephen purged. Five minutes later he collected himself, then we talked a bit more and within a few miles he felt better. Keep in mind it didn't change the outcome of his game. But by opening up, Stephen was able to think about what to do the next time he might be in that same position, and by relieving that pressure he felt different than he had immediately after his game.
Stephen basically addressed the situation, made a decision on what to do next time, and moved on.
Opening up not only helps you relieve that pent-up anxiety, but sometimes can be just enough to get you through.
You can do the same thing Stephen did. Having a bad day at work? Or on your way to work or school after a problem at home? And, to make matters worse, is it a big day for you and you only have little time between where you've been and where you're going? If you have to, and if you have no other way of relieving the strain, during the drive to your destination allot yourself a specific amount of time to vent a little and shout in the car. Smack that steering wheel a few times. Screech at that radio talkshow host. Imagine that your supervisor or that person who made you upset is beside you and give that person a piece of your mind. Within reason, alleviate some of that pressure to clear your mind and enable it to focus on the events of your day.
Do not get so upset that you cause an accident. Again, I stress the term controlled eruptions. You are in control as you vent that pressure. Sometimes when I'm driving, I bark at the radio for a few minutes until I feel better. When I'm alone, looking at photos of my wife and son, realizing they are the reason I do what I do is enough to pull me through. Before or after a big day I work out at the gym. At home I'll walk for hours among the redwood trees. No matter my hectic schedule, every day I try to do something that will alleviate the stress of my day. My wife, Marsha: she shops. She has a weakness for makeup, shoes, and anything within the confines of a mall. But at least Marsha comes home happier than when she left, and proudly proclaims her mantra "I feel much better!" On a more serious note, by leaving the office Marsha gets away from her pressure-filled environment. In her car Marsha applies that time to decompress as she sings out loud. In a psychological sense, walking the length of the mall several times at a brisk pace helps Marsha diminish her stress all the more. The point I'm trying to make is: within reason do what you have to in order to relieve your daily stress. Take some form of controlget away from that confrontation, write a scathing letter that you never mail, take a stroll anywhere you feel at peace. Once a day, three times a day, a hundred times a day, whatever it takes, make a sincere effort to deal with life's unpleasantries as best as you can.
Once, when I was speaking for a business and after hearing how the morale was low and production was down, I recommended that the organization dispose of office rank and have a productive gripe session. Without the fear of reprisal, anyone would be allowed to speak her mind, not only on what was wrong, but she had to have a recommendation to make things better. In this way, those who were preoccupied not only addressed their problems once and for all, but became proactive in the process. The only stipulations I made were that the discussion not be a onetime quick fix, but should at least be a quarterly conference or when the situation warranted; and secondly, it was not an opportunity to be used as a perpetual whine fest. As time went on, morale and productivity rose while stress, apprehensiveness, and needless complaining declined.
This is basically the same method that Stephen and I used after his troublesome ball game, as well as do a lot of families. Every so often dispense with the protocol, speak your mind freely, openly or to yourself, and do something about the complication. By addressing and relieving pressure you are helping to ensure that the circuit breaker in your head can be reset, so you can live your life better.
Cleansing Your Soul
However, on the other side of the coin, I cannot tell you how many people I have met who have become helpless victims or jaded souls. Why? They either became too frightened of opening up or allowed their unresolved issues to get the best of them. Even though some of these individuals fully realized, through their own choice, they were destined to live a joyless life, the prospect of dealing with their problematic situation became too much for them. The sad reality is that if some of these people could have confronted the problem they would have seen the situation for what it was, rather than what they thought it was, and they might have turned the tide.
To use my son as another example, when Stephen was about five years old I could tell something was troubling him. Whenever I had tried to get him to talk about it, he simply blushed with embarrassment, saying I wouldn't understand. Finally, for whatever reason, I was able to get Stephen to talk. At first he was a little apprehensive. He even stopped before he got to the core of the issue and wanted to run off. Thankfully, as he plowed through, his eyes suddenly widened with the discovery that his problem was not as bad as he had thought it was. The second Stephen finished, he sat amazed at his own breakthrough of simply opening up and telling me everything, and before I could give him any fatherly advice he kissed me and ran off to spend the rest of his day playing outside.
When I listen to folks who tell me their predicaments, I try to get them to open up, to tell me everything, rather than scratch the surface. For the most part, when we get to the core of the issue, we realize the situation that we held on to for so long, that caused us so much pain, is not as bad as it seems or seemed at the time.
For lack of a better word, it's what I call purging. When you have stomach troubles, and if they're bad enough, your body will physically reject whatever it is that is making you sick. Often when I have been sick, I did not physically regurgitate everything I should have, so I remained in great pain until I purged whatever it was that made me feel ill. Then, like a lot of people, within a short time I actually felt better. The reason: There was nothing left within me to make me sick.
I am not trying to sound tasteless, but I cannot tell you how important, how imperative, it is for you to psychologically purge yourself of whatever is ailing you. After everything you have read thus far, if you still have situations that seem to pull you down or if you seem tied to something in your past, if you do not "vomit" from the recesses of your soul, you are most likely destined to be a slave of your experience.
Have you ever known someone who has been in therapy for years? Now, I am not taking a jab at those in the field of psychology, but one of the reasons a person may feel she needs that much help may be because she is still skating around the edges, rather than getting to the core of the issue that required her to be in therapy in the first place.
* * *
I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of thousands of people, and I have seen so many lives that were crushed because some kept issues locked away deep in their hearts. But once they purged, and I mean released everything, at the very least they felt a little alleviated, cleaner. Their lives' perspective changed for the better. Overall they became more self-reliant and independent. Over time they became whole. Like everyone else, these folks still had to deal with everyday situations, but having freed themselves from their shackled past they were able to do so now with a little more relative ease.
To reiterate, I am not talking about a troubled childhood. Divorce, losing a love, a career that might have been, violated trust ... you name it, all of us have endured the deepest of pain. But are you a prisoner to your past or stronger and wiser because of it?
Yes, purging yourself can be painful, embarrassing, and at times disgusting. What other options do you have? Ask yourself this: If what I've been doing so far isn't working, isn't it about time I did something different?
Years ago Bob, a dear friend of mine, lost his father to cancer. Three years after the death of his father, Bob still grieved over his loss. Over time he became reclusive, overweight, and miserable. It affected Bob's marriage, the relationship with his children, his promising career, his sleep, and ultimately his health. On one visit, because he had known me for years, Bob allowed me to take him out for a drive. Without his knowing our destination, I drove him to the cemetery. Once there, I had to pry him from the car and lead him to his father's tombstone, where he sheepishly stood until suddenly his body shook, then he exploded with a surge of tears. While a grown man weeping on his hands and knees in the middle of the day might prove unmasculine and embarrassing to some, Bob later confessed not only how cleansed he felt, but how an invisible weightthat had held him down for yearslifted from his soul.
For years Bob had carried in his heart the regret that he'd never had the opportunity to say good-bye to his father. Bob also lived with the guilty sense that he could have been a better son. That evening back at home Bob finally fell into a deep, sound sleep. With every day afterward he made progress. While he informed me he would never be the same, he has now dedicated himself to being a better person and a more loving father to his children.
It had taken Bob three years and an endless amount of suffering for him to finally come face to face with his issue. His upbeat outlook didn't come overnight, and it took him several more "talks" with his father until he felt strong enough to shed himself of guilt and of whatever baggage he had carried with him for so long.
Bob's situation changed when he achieved a sense of closure with his father. He was able to open up at his father's grave site. For others, I recommend talking to someone, anyone. Sometimes it just takes that one person whom you know to make the differencea parent, spouse, lover, friend, someone at work. As long as you feel comfortable and trust that person, I recommend you take the chance. For folks with more serious issues, I recommend professional helpcounselor, therapist, psychologist, someone who specializes in that particular fieldwhich can help guide you along the path to becoming a more wholesome, fulfilled, happy person.
Againif what you are doing so far isn't working, isn't it about time you did something different? Make the change to free yourself!
* * *
HELP YOURSELF REMINDERS
* Settle your problems as promptly and as thoroughly as you are able.
* Let go of a past you cannot change.
* In the midst of fighting life's battles, relax.
* Vent your frustrations in a controlled yet cleansing manner.
* Have the courage to purify yourself of whatever may be holding you back.
Meet the Author
Dave Pelzer travels throughout the nation promoting inspiration and resilience. His unique accomplishments have garnered personal commendations from Presidents Reagan and Bush. In 1993 Pelzer was chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA), and in 1994 was the only American to receive The Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) award. He was also a torchbearer for the Centennial Olympic Games
- Rancho Mirage, California
- Date of Birth:
- Place of Birth:
- Daly City, California
- High School equivalency certificate
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